“Write a 500-word review of the project you have produced. This will discuss the context within the work exists and how it relates to your perceived audience. How has the work you have made address the questions you have raised?”

Intentions – I aimed to focus broadly on the social significance of objects in relation to the commodity form. Paying particular attention to cars due to their pervasive appearance within commercial commodity fetishism. I wanted to study and investigate how we interact with these object and how do these interactions leave behind traces/remenants whilst simultaneously critiquing the systems that encourage us to consume on mass scales.

Perceived Audience – Predominantly Western Cultures due to the nature of my critique. Anticapitalist movements, Artists that examine contemporary struggles and issues within Western Cultures. Broadly targeting ages 18+ focusing on all genders. This project is culturally fuelled, focusing almost exclusively on upper-middle class Western Cultures.

Questions Raised

  • How does the act of photographic isolation work to fetishize and objectify its subject?
  • How is the commodity form fetishized within contemporary media representations?
  • What effect does this have on our attachments to objects?
  • How do we use/interact with the commodity form?
  • What traces does this leave behind?
  • How do we consume the commodity form?
  • Is this influenced by fetishistic capitalism?
  • Is capitalist infrastructure oppressive? (In the sense that  consumers are depicted as passive and easily influenced/coerced?)

Benefits/Successes

  • Over the last semester, my project has morphed and developed dramatically. This semester, in particular, has provided me with essential photographic skills and techniques in which to create, edit and construct images. By developing my photographic ability further has allowed me to rethink the camera’s purpose, as a tool of investigation rather than documentation.
  • I would argue that my choice of photographic subject is successful in the sense that… Vehicles are often fetishized and marketed as commodities (and essentials to everyday living!). By choosing a subject that is already the subject of fetishism and representing it in an opposing way invited reflection and thought.
  • I feel that my images have successfully embodied emblematic characteristics of contemporary advertising and commodification by incorporating techniques such as fetishism, objectification, lens flares and glossy imagery.
  • I would argue that I successfully illustrated and challenged commodity fetishism through the choice of subject and technique. By taking an object/commodity that is often fetishized and objectified and depicting it in an opposing way whereby, the dirty, damaged and imperfect nature and appearance becomes showcased and paraded. This neglected and imperfect subject is displayed in a similar way that is featured within contemporary advertising, with degradation and damage paraded within aesthetically pleasing imagery, composition and shooting style; featuring vibrant colours, oversaturation and vast tone and depth.
  • This project/investigation allowed me to produce sharp, high-quality images that feature vibrant saturation, and vast tonal contrasts. The use of shallow depth of field, camera technique and compositional structure acts to guide the viewer around each image, reveal and drawing attention to the damage sustained from use in focused detail and clarity.
  • My images work to challenge mainstream commodification by inviting critical reflection and analysis of capitalist consumption through the delicate juxtaposition my images embody.
  • I would argue that my images successfully addressed the questions that arose throughout my photographic exploration. Whereby, my images and research allowed me to fully realise how objects are fetishised, isolated and marketed as desirable magical necessities.
  • I would argue that my series successfully invited critical reflection on consumerism by embodying a delicate juxtaposition whereby traditional capitalist conventions were challenged.
  • My photographic series also act to illustrate temporality and Entropic discourses that encourage the viewer to reflect on our consumption patterns and interactions with objects and the commodity form.
  • My project and investigation also revealed that dichotomous tensions exist between the human user and environmental exposure. These tensions/pressures have been illustrated through my final images, again linking back to my original interest in investigating how humans interact with and use the commodity form.
  • I would argue that I have created a well-informed and well-researched investigative series that analysed and illustrated the presence of commodity fetishism within Western Cultures.
  • I feel that throughout this semester, I have connected and engaged within this project fully, maintaining steady momentum by pushing each section further which allowed me to develop and refine my project fully.
  • My project also briefly examines themes that arose from core readings around fetishism, objectification and surrealism. Some of my imaged draw on themes of ‘Estrangement’, the ‘uncanny’ and ‘surrealism’ whereby a mundane and typical object is represented in a manner that makes it appear unfamiliar or strange due to photographic technique and composition.
  • I feel that throughout this semester I have worked well and very efficiently. Within this project, I have displayed a strong sense of engagement and interest by developing both my project and technique.
  • My images have successfully created a series that depicts the gritty and unseen nature of our interactions with vehicles as a subject of commodification. Whilst also presenting my subject in a highly aesthetic style which creates a reflective juxtaposition that invites the viewer to critically re-think the relationships we have with our vehicles.
  • This project as a whole has allowed me to critically reflect on the cultural significance of objects but also has allowed me to reflect on my own patterns on consumption within a wider context.

Limitations/Issues

  • My juxtaposing/conflicting approach to displaying my subject was influenced by the artist Cindy Sherman’s series that investigated the macabre and grotesque. I wanted to depict the dirty, taboo and neglected nature of my subject in a manner that is visually pleasing by using a shallow depth of field and oversaturation. However, I feel that I was unable to fully adopt and embody this style as my series was to be displayed/viewed digitally meaning that I couldn’t rely on glossy large format prints presented in physical exhibitions. Instead, I had to rely on approaching this slightly differently by making use of camera technique and post-production editing whereby my images would appear visually aesthetic through the use of camera angle/technique, image saturation and vast tonal depth.
  • I was initially faced with complications that related to the nature of my project. Initially, the intentions of my project weren’t fully realised or defined. However, further research and shoots allowed me to develop my investigation further in a way that fully realised my own intentions.
  • Due to the nature of my project, my photography and shooting times relied heavily upon visibility, daylight hours and weather meaning that toward the end of my shooting time, it was often very hit or miss in terms of conducting successful shoots. However, because of the steady and precise momentum I had established, toward the start of the project; this didn’t massively impact the outcome or success of my project because I had captured most of my desired shots in earlier shoots.
  • The shooting also became problematic as a consequence of choosing a subject that it use daily. As a result, when shooting conditions were best, I was unable to shoot every time due to the vehicle being in use and when this wasn’t the case…weather would often act as a further restriction; making shooting increasingly difficult to conduct.
  • My project investigates and draws on multiple and overlapping discourses, although this is mostly positive as it demonstrates how I have made wider connections and engaged fully in this investigation. This also worked for me in some areas, because the intentions of my project were sometimes lost or obscured, as a result, (in places) my images lacked direction. However, I feel that the images I have chosen fully encapsulate and directly address questions that arose from this photographic investigation.

Evaluation/Reflection Essay Plan:

Introduction:

  • Briefly, outline project
  • Describe aims/intentions

Project Analysis:

  • Describe and discuss perceived audience/demographic
  • Outline some questions that arose during the production process
  • Describe how some of these questions were answered…

Reflections:

  • Outline limitations and successes.

Draft 1:     

My photographic investigation created a set of images that acted to encourage critical reflection upon capitalism and its use of commodity fetishism within contemporary Western societies. Intending to investigate how object use and interactions leave behind traces/remains. This lead me to discover the dichotomous tensions that balance between forces exerted from human use and environmental pressures. Illustrating these tensions through photography invites reflection upon capitalism and commodity fetishism.

This project is culturally fuelled, focusing predominantly on upper-middle class, Western communities due to the nature of my images and investigation which focuses almost exclusively on discourses of capitalism, commodification and excessive consumption. The series could also appeal to anti-capitalist movements and awareness campaigns, that targets all genders and ages 18+.

Throughout my investigation various questions arose such as:

  1. “How do we use/interact the commodity form?”
  2. “Is this influenced by commodity fetishism?”
  3. “What traces does this leave behind?”
  4. “How is the commodity form fetishized within contemporary media representations?”
  5. “Is capitalist infrastructure oppressive?” > Links to Edward Bernays in The Century Self: stating that by satisfying ones inner desires they come docile. (The Century Self, 2002)

These questions were approached and answered in a variety of different ways. Questions 1, 3, and 4 were answered through multiple shoots and further investigations which allowed me to create images that embody and depict the commodity form as well as evidence of use and differing pressures that are exerted upon it. However, questions 2 and 5 links to wider contexts that related to the surrounding discourses of my investigation; questions to consider if this was a larger project that included a wider time-frame to complete.

 

Due to the subject, timing and nature of my investigation some setbacks and issues were inevitable. I aimed to examine multiple overlapping discourses which sometimes obscured the direction/purpose of my intentions meaning that ultimately, some shoots acted as an exploration of my subject rather than an illustration of intentions. However, ‘exploration’ shoots educated/inspired me to investigate deeper into specific discourses such as internal/external pressures exerted onto the subject from use and traces of interaction. Despite this, further academic research allowed me to re-establish and ground my project in a framework that sits well with my practical investigation.

I was also confronted by issues that related to my changing shooting conditions. My photographic inquiry relied heavily upon visibility, natural lighting and weather. Meaning that towards the end of my shooting period, it became increasingly problematic to achieve optimum shooting conditions due to poor lighting or bad weather. Although, the precise and steady momentum I had established prior to this meant that this didn’t massively impact the outcome or success of my project because my desired shots were achieved in earlier shoots.

I feel that my project successfully illustrated and challenged commodity fetishism though subject choice and technique. Vehicles are fetishized in term of their glossy, pristine and surrealist imagery whereas my images fetishize/parade the filthy and damaged areas of the vehicle; presenting this through oversaturation, shallow focus and deep tonal contrasts. Such techniques act to guide the viewer across the image and sites of damage. The juxtaposing nature of my images invites critical reflection capitalism by illustrating how commodity become fetishized. The isolation and visual aesthetics within my photographs act to make visible the magical and desirable qualities that are ascribed through selective photographing techniques. Throughout, I have engaged efficiently and consistently, pushing my images and technical ability further by conducting additional research which allowed the highly quality finish of my investigation. I would argue that both my practical and theoretical research successfully critiques both capitalism and the presence of fetishism within contemporary media.


References:

D, Lessiq. (2015) The Century of the Self (Full Documentary). YouTube . 9 July. Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJ3RzGoQC4s [Accessed 24 October 2016]

Modern Museum of Art (2016) Cindy Sherman. Available from: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/cindysherman/gallery/6/#/2/untitled-177-1987/ [Accessed 10 October 2016]

The Art History Archive (2016) The Faces of Cindy Sherman. Available from: http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/photography/cindysherman190.html [Accessed 10 October 2016]

Dictionary.com (2016) Capitalism. Available from: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/capitalism [Accessed 26 November 2016]

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